THE BODY OF CHRIST

Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

            If you knew the day you were going to die, how would you spend your last night? With whom would you spend it? Would you want to make it memorable? How would you memorialize it?

            The night Jesus was betrayed begins with supper. During this meal, our Lord says and does some unexpected things, which undoubtedly puzzle those present. Before supper, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. It is a task so demeaning that in Israel it is reserved to foreign slaves. Yet, it is not too demeaning for Jesus Christ. (Nil Guillemette)

            During (and after) that Supper, Jesus speaks mysterious words about the bread being his body and the wine being his blood. In the fullness of time, the disciples will come to understand what Jesus is telling them. The broken bread, indeed, becomes his body. The wine becomes his blood.

            Jesus knows that the way of the cross, his Paschal Mystery – his suffering, death, and resurrection – is the fulfillment of his mission on earth. And so, he institutes this rite to bring that moment back to his followers in generation henceforth until the end of time.

            According to John Alexander, in his book Springtime of the Spirit, following Jesus’ way of the cross is an entire way of life entailing fellowship with other Christians – a fellowship intimately manifested in the communal act of eating and drinking together – by breaking bread and drinking from one cup. “In and through their table fellowship, Christians recognize their unity with one another and with the risen Lord present in their midst.”

            By receiving the bread and wine that have become the Body and Blood of Christ, the Church itself is transformed as the Body of Christ on earth. St. Teresa of Avila, the great mystic, maintains that “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.” Mother Teresa elaborates on this by adding, “Yours are the eyes through which he is to look out to the world with compassion. Yours are the feet with which he is to go out doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless now.” We are called as Christians, as members of the Body of Christ, to do in our day what he did in his time: to proclaim good news to the poor, to heal the sick, and to comfort the afflicted.

            It is here that the foot washing comes into play. The Church, the Body of Christ, is called to be a community characterized not only by eating and drinking but also by mutual self-sacrifice and loving service. By washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus exemplifies for us what it means to be his Body in the world. Jesus comes among us as one who serves. And we are likewise called to be servants – servants of God, servants of one another, servants of our neighbors.

            After seeing our Lord and God humble himself by washing the feet of his disciples, how can we still stand on our pride because we have suffered some slight from our neighbor? When we are tempted to think of our dignity, our prestige, our privilege, our position, our status, our rights, let us remember the Son of God, a towel around his waist, kneeling before the apostles… humbly washing their feet.

            Jesus wants to directly connect the washing of the feet of the disciples with the sharing of his Body and Blood that he is about to do. Somehow Jesus is saying, “Do you want to know the meaning of what we have done in this Supper?” And then explains the meaning of it by saying, “This is my Body, which will be given up for you.” “This is the chalice of my Blood, which will be poured out for you.” Sa madaling sabi, ang paghuhugas ng paa na ginawa ni Hesus ay nagpapahiwatig sa gagawin niyang pag-aalay ng kanyang buhay para sa ating ikabubuhay.

            Moreover, Jesus also wants his disciples to do the same thing. At that Supper, he says, “Do this in memory of me.” Jesus wants us to give ourselves up, too, as food for the hungry – by working in behalf of the poor and marginalized. Jesus wants us to pour ourselves out, too, as drink for the thirsty – by bringing the loving presence of God to those who thirst for it. We should be able to make Jesus’ words as our own, and say: “This is my Body, which will be given up for you.” “This is the chalice of my Blood, which will be poured out for you.” 

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